Head coach Kristian Woolf is happy to be overseeing Tonga’s three-Test collection towards England later this 12 months; the collection kicks off in St Helens, the place the 47-year-old loved a profitable spell which included main the membership to 3 straight Super League title triumphs
Last Updated: 09/05/23 12:16pm
Tonga are heading to England for an historic three-Test collection later this 12 months
Even although Kristian Woolf is now based mostly over 10,000 miles away in Brisbane, he nonetheless finds himself being drawn again to St Helens.
The Tonga head coach might be again within the Lancashire city he known as dwelling for 3 years – whereas steering Saints to a hat-trick of Super League titles – in October this 12 months, when the Pacific Islanders kick off their historic three-Test collection towards England.
Woolf, now assistant and eventual inheritor to former England boss Wayne Bennett at NRL aspect Dolphins, and the Tongans have already been at Totally Wicked Stadium for the reason that final of these triumphs, taking part in two of their Rugby League World Cup pool phases video games there in 2022.
The 47-year-old couldn’t consider a greater place to start this 12 months’s tour, although, in a match which can mark the primary time England have performed in St Helens since a World Cup conflict with Russia at Knowsley Road 23 years in the past, and will see Saints stars Konrad Hurrell, Will Hopoate and Agantius Paasi that includes amongst Tonga’s Super League-based contingent.
“Being again in St Helens is excellent,” Woolf mentioned. “I could not be prouder of my affiliation with St Helens as a workforce and a city, and I’d hope meaning one thing to the individuals.
“I’m actually wanting ahead to seeing the individuals once more and we’re definitely going to have some gamers from St Helens concerned.
“I want to assume we left an amazing mark [during the World Cup]. We acquired to a number of faculties and golf equipment and the gamers loved their time there, and I believe it was rather well appreciated by the individuals of St Helens.”
Tonga’s Daniel Tupou in motion towards Wales in St Helens eventually 12 months’s World Cup
Wins over Papua New Guinea and Wales in St Helens, plus a document 92-10 thumping of the Cook Islands in Middlesbrough, took Tonga into the quarter-finals of final 12 months’s World Cup the place they have been edged out 20-18 by eventual runners-up and Pacific rivals Samoa.
It was the Tongans moderately than the Samoans who had been tipped to make historical past forward of the match, although, on the again of their wins over Great Britain and world champions Australia in 2019.
Woolf remains to be pissed off his aspect didn’t obtain their potential and believes this 12 months’s tour will play a component in serving to them unlock that and adapt to northern hemisphere situations forward of the following World Cup in France in simply over two years’ time.
“If we take a look at the squad we had, it was most likely extra proficient than the squad we had in 2019, which was much more disappointing,” Woolf mentioned.
We’ve by no means had the chance to tour the UK or play a three-game collection towards anyone, so it is a very historic and proud event for us, and a little bit of a grow-up second that we do get to be the headline workforce and play a collection.
Tonga head coach Kristian Woolf
“Playing nicely within the UK is one thing we’ve not completed so nicely when you take a look at our historical past during the last 10 or so years and it is one thing we have to discover ways to do.
“The subsequent World Cup is not within the UK, however it’s in that a part of the world and we have to discover ways to recover from there and play to our potential and put together to play at our potential too.
“That’s an enormous a part of this tour and we definitely wish to make amends for our disappointments within the World Cup.”
This 12 months’s tour might be solely the second time the workforce have toured England exterior of the worldwide gathering, having featured within the Federation Shield in 2006 the place they misplaced to the host nation in a last which noticed two of their gamers despatched off following a mass brawl within the closing phases.
England vs Tonga Test collection fixtures
Date Kick-off time Venue Sunday, October 22 2.30pm Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens Saturday, October 28 2.30pm John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield Saturday, November 4 2.30pm Headingley, Leeds
It is one other step in direction of making certain groups exterior rugby league’s conventional ‘huge three’ of England, Australia and New Zealand have common, significant worldwide fixtures, and Woolf is delighted to see how his aspect have been gaining extra Test alternatives since he took cost in 2014.
It stays a supply of frustration within the sport that there’s not but a longer-term calendar in place within the build-up to the following World Cup and past. Woolf, nevertheless, is assured that may quickly develop into a actuality for each his workforce and the likes of fellow Pacific nations Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
“I do discuss to [head coach] Matt Parish from Samoa rather a lot and I do know they have been in an analogous boat so long as now we have,” Woolf mentioned.
“Up to the 2017 World Cup, you solely knew you had one recreation yearly and previous to 2013 you did not know what you may need and that is why we have seen that cycle of Tongan heritage and even Tonga-born gamers taking part in for different nations as a result of they knew what alternative that they had there.
Samoa and Tonga are aiming for extra Test matches towards rugby league’s conventional ‘huge three’
“There is an actual drive there to start out ensuring now we have a extra significant worldwide calendar. I do assume we’re on target and there’s an urge for food there. This collection is an enormous a part of us on target.
“It’s a extremely thrilling alternative for us. We’ve by no means had the chance to tour the UK or play a three-game collection towards anyone, so it is a very historic and proud event for us, and a little bit of a grow-up second that we do get to be the headline workforce and play a collection.”